Former Northwestern football coach Ara Parseghian, 94, dies

Former Northwestern football coach Ara Parseghian, 94, dies

Before Gary Barnett took the purple to Pasadena in 1995, Ara Parseghian was the benchmark of Northwestern coaches. Now, the college football icon has passed away at 94.

Parseghian coached the Wildcats from 1956-63, going 36-35-1 with winning marks from 1958-60 and 1962-63 after coaching his alma mater, Miami (Ohio), from 1951-55 with two MAC titles. No NU coach has left Evanston with a winning record since Parseghian departed after the 1963 season to take over Notre Dame. Not Barnett (35-45-1) nor Randy Walker (37-45). Current Wildcat coach Pat Fitzgerald is 77-62, the all-time winningest coach at Northwestern.

It was at Notre Dame where Parseghian rose to fame, restoring the luster to the hallowed program by winning national titles in 1966 and 1973 in 11 years before leaving after the 1974 season. He inherited a program that had endured five consecutive losing seasons. But the fortunes of the Irish quickly changed, as Parseghian went 95-17-4 in South Bend, the second most wins by a ND coach at the time behind only Knute Rockne. He finished with a 170-58-6 mark in a career that spanned 24 seasons with five bowls. Upon retirement, Parseghian remained in the spotlight as a respected TV analyst.

A College Football Hall of Famer, Parseghian inherited a winless team at Northwestern in 1958 and quickly became a rising star, who at 32 was the youngest coach in the Big Ten at the time. One of his assistants in Evanston was former Miami teammate named Bo Schembechler, who would go on to fame at Michigan.

Parseghian learned at the hand of legendary Paul Brown, for whom Parseghian played for the Cleveland Browns from 1948-49. He also was hired at Miami by Woody Hayes and succeeded him as coach at Miami after Hayes left to coach Ohio State.

Parseghian’s best season at Northwestern was 1962, when he led the Wildcats to a 7-2 mark, third-place Big Ten finish and No. 16 ranking. One of those wins was vs. Notre Dame, a foe he was 4-0 against while at NU. In fact, after wins vs. ND and Ohio State, Northwestern ascended to No. 1 in the nation in the AP poll.

Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.


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